I first watched Genshiken in June 2013, during my first anime burnout. At the time, I didn’t really have any desire to watch non-airing anime, so I decided to make a game out of it: Watch two shows in tandem and compare them with each other, and write a post on Reddit after each pair of episodes. The first show I randomly picked was A-Channel, and the second one was Genshiken. I started by watching the first episode of A-Channel while writing notes, and I had a decent (but not great) time. Then I started up Genshiken, and I was almost immediately blown away. I promptly forgot about the Reddit posts and put A-Channel on hold(I later dropped it after 3 episodes), and then I proceeded to marathon Genshiken.
Here was a show that, from the very outset, tried hard to do something meaningfully different. The cast was wonderfully varied, the characters attended university instead of high school, and they were all(well, almost all) otaku. The last point meant that Genshiken was not going to be one of those shows where the main character is a closet otaku, which was one particular trope that I was getting tired of at the time. And that was only the first episode! After that, I sat in sweltering heat for hours watching “just one more episode”, marveling at this piece of media that analysed and criticised its own medium with such talent.
I don’t doubt that, when I think and look back to those 3 days that it took me to finish the first season, the glasses I’m wearing are rose-tinted. Were I to watch the show again, I probably wouldn’t be as blown away as the first time, but on the other hand, all the things that I liked about it will still be there. The fact that it’s a show about otaku that avoids the usual “the MC is an otaku” jokes is still a fact. And it’s also a fact that the characters do experience a lot of development over the years, even in the third season(which aired 9 years after the first one).
But Genshiken is not only a tremendously good show(in my opinion), it also happened to really click with me personally. I think that part of the reason that I disliked(and still do, to some extent) watching otaku main characters is because I looked down on them and on myself for their choice of hobby. The fact that most of these kinds of MCs tend to be annoying and self-insert-y in other ways didn’t help. But Genshiken helped. It helped me stop making a big deal out of liking anime. It’s a hobby like any other, and the fact that you can even make an anime about people who like anime kind of proves that. And it’s a great anime to boot.